Barbara J Saffir

PSA Mid-Atlantic  Chapter, Established 1997

Cutest Couple

Prothonotary Warblers at Nest Box
I remember my first time.  My first time seeing prothonotary warblers, that is.  I felt like I was in a Disney movie when these sunflower-yellow birds started flying around my head and even zipping past my ankles, chasing each other through the marsh.  I’ve been hooked ever since.  But this particular day was extraordinary as I captured one flying out of its nest box, past his/her partner.
Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Woodbridge, VA, 5/1/20
Canon EOS 7D Mark II, Canon 100-400 mm lens, f/5.6, 1/1600, ISO 250


Beauty Queen

Snowy Egret in Breeding Colors and Plumage
I was lucky enough to view snowy egrets close up during the roughly two weeks of the year when they’re all “gussied up” in their frilliest feathers & lipstick-colored lores.
Orlando, FL, 3/20/15
Nikon D5100, Nikon 55-300 mm lens, f/7.1, 1/1600, ISO 400

Bye-bye, Birdie

Male ruby-throated Hummingbird Flies Out of Hand after Banding
It always felt magical to photograph a hummingbird banding. I used various cameras and lenses over the years to capture a close-up banding in the shade on a front porch — trying not to interfere with the banding — and the fast-and-furious jet-fighter flying (forward, backward, hovering, and zig-zagging) in the bright sun.  The flying shots required patience, luck, love of hummingbirds, a long lens, and a shutter speed between 1/1600 and 1/4000.   But the best part of any banding was being one of the chosen few who the bander assigned to hold the hummer and release it.  Though I loved photographing all releases — especially the males with their glowing gorgets, which only appear ruby-red in the sun because they get their color from their feather structure and not pigment — that didn’t compare to the pure joy of holding the baby-doll bird myself.  I think I held my breath the whole time.
Darlington, MD, 7/22/16
Canon EOS 7D, Mark II, 150-600 mm, Sigma Contemporary lens, f/6.3, 1/4000, ISO 640


Bird's Eye View

Male Indigo Bunting Flying up Through Thistle
Male Indigo Buntings would look beautiful hanging out on a pile of dirt.  But flying through purple thistles on a mini-mountain at Sky Meadows State Park that resembles a scene from “The Sound of Music?” Priceless.
Sky Meadows State Park, Delaplane, VA, 6/13/20
Canon 7D Mark II, Canon 100-400 mm lens, f/5.6, 1/1600, ISO 1000


Baby Blues

Handsome Meadow Katydid with Baby Blue Eyes
How could I NOT like a bug with eyes that match mine?  I fell in love with these rainbow-colored katydids after discovering them a few years ago in my Virginia Master Naturalist class.
Huntley Meadows Park, Alexandria, VA, 9/21/19
Canon 7D Mark II, Canon 105 mm lens, f/20, 1/500, ISO 125

Snake Ball

Five Northern Watersnakes Mating
I was thrilled when I saw a big snake crawl onto a log at a wetland park.  But then I was perplexed and perhaps even aghast as I clicked my shutter in disbelief while four smaller snakes piled on top of the big female.  Only later did I learn that these “snake balls” are common though humans seldom glimpse them, much less photograph them.
Huntley Meadows Park, Alexandria, VA, 5/28/18
Canon EOS 7D, Mark II, 150-600 mm, Sigma Contemporary lens, f/5.6, 1/2000, ISO 1250

Pop Tops

Burrowing Owls Love Their Dusty Ditch Home
I photographed these wild owls in a dusty ditch on the side of the road in front of a South Tucson, AZ bank in 102-degree heat. I wasn’t sure if they would be there. Expert birders told me that these mesmerizing critters are increasing losing their homes in Tucson and elsewhere due to the booming construction. But one birder had heard that this dastardly duo might still be living by the bank.  So late one afternoon, I plopped down in the dirt one in the somewhat dangerous neighborhood and within an hour, I lucked out!  First one popped his cute head out of his home & soon another one popped out alongside him. Since it was the first time I’d ever seen a burrowing owl, I was especially thrilled!
Tucson, AZ, 8/12/18
Canon EOS 7D, Mark II, 150-600 mm Sigma Contemporary lens, f/9.0, 1/160, ISO 100

Three Musketeers

Green Treefrog, Western Honey Bee, and Handsome Meadow Katydid “Spooning”
Many wildlife photographers in the Washington, DC region caught “green treefrog fever” the summer of 2019. I spent hours trying to find the superbly-camouflaged, 1/2-inch babies to 2.3-inch, dark-green to bright-green adults with sticky feet at three separate parks. One day I was hunting these cute critters on a boardwalk and I was thrilled to catch one on the opposite side of a blade with my favorite bug ever, a handsome meadow katydid. If that was not fantastic enough, I was astonished when a bee landed on the frog’s back. I thought it would only stay there a nanosecond & I figured it was trying to sting the frog, but it just hung out for several seconds & then buzzed off. The frog never moved and the katydid never took her foot off the frog the whole time. I don’t really know how long the bee stayed because it felt like I held my breath the whole time in amazement.
Neabsco Regional Park, Woodbridge, VA, 9/21/19
Canon 7D Mark II, Canon 105 mm lens, f/22, 1/500,  ISO 200
Barbara J. Saffir is an award-winning wildlife photographer, author of “Walking, Washington, DC,” founder of the “Nature Photography DC/MD/VA” Meetup group, and a certified Virginia Master Naturalist from Fairfax, VA.
She regularly explores trails either hiking with her camera or running without her camera while wishing she had it with her.  A former journalist, she adores sharing photos, adventures, and discoveries that inspire people to say, “Wow!”

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